It was jobs, jobs, jobs – now it’s housing, housing, housing

You can leave your heart in San Francisco. You just can’t afford to live here.

That’s the takeaway of a poll of 600 San Francisco voters commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce: Voters are deeply concerned about the cost of housing and their ability to control their cost of living.

They also want action. Voters say they strongly support measures to create more affordable housing and reform the housing permit process in a city that routinely tops the list of the most expensive and least affordable places to live in the United States.

The annual Dignity Health CityBeat Voter Poll found that:

  • 70 percent of voters support a $250 million general obligation housing bond for affordable- and middle-income housing and public-housing repairs.
  • 61 percent support reforming the housing construction permit process to expedite permit issuance.
  • 55 percent support the recent legislation to legalize short-term rentals of homes or rooms.

The chamber revealed the poll results Wednesday at our annual CityBeat Breakfast, which brings together nearly 1,000 individuals who are committed to making San Francisco a great place to live and work. The poll, conducted by David Binder Research, found that in general, San Franciscans are content with their city and the services it provides: 64 percent say the quality of life in The City is the same or getting better while 82 percent say the quality of life in their neighborhood is the same or getting better.

That’s great news in a city with a booming economy. But the poll also put hard numbers on what many of us already know: 43 percent listed cost of rents-affordability as their top concern. Tied for second: the cost of owning a home and the issue that topped the list just two years ago, homelessness-street behavior.

Also take note: A strong majority (70 percent) indicate they want action on the streets by construction of new shelter facilities to house the thousands of homeless sleeping today on sidewalks and in parks.

What else did the poll reveal?

When asked about the economy and city services, 61 percent say the local economy is improving, up from 48 percent just a year ago. At the same time, 74 percent say traffic congestion is worsening and high majorities indicate the availability of housing and their ability to control their cost of living is diminishing.

Voters overwhelmingly support building the Warriors’ Mission Bay arena and mixed-use development, 72 percent to 19 percent. The recent legislation legalizing short-term rentals is supported 55 percent to 37 percent. And once again, the idea of imposing congestion pricing to drive in the northeast quadrant of The City is strongly opposed, 76-20 percent.

Finally, with so much news about the tech industry’s impact on our city, we asked voters for their opinion. Sixty-three percent had a positive view on the effect of technology companies and their employees on The City’s economy.

Why is all of this important? Because the poll helps to shape not only the chamber’s policy agenda but also proposals that come out of City Hall. Just five years ago, jobs and the economy topped the CityBeat poll of major issues facing San Francisco. We have lots of jobs. Now it’s about doing something about housing and affordability.

Look for the chamber to be at the table to help shape solutions that work.

By Bob Linscheid

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. The Dignity Health CityBeat Poll was conducted among 600 San Francisco likely voters in February by David Binder Research for the Chamber of Commerce. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent. Poll results can be found at SFChamber.com.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on March 5, 2015.